The Business Application of the Decade: And the Winner Is...

It's not flashy or pretty, and used incorrectly it can create a big nightmare. But business users simply can't quit this app.

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In his blog post on the Top 10 Trends for 2010 in Analytics, BI and Performance Management, author and former SAP executive Nenshad Bardoliwalla doesn't forget about old faithful. "Excel will continue to provide the dominant paradigm for end-user BI consumption," Bardoliwalla writes. "For Excel specifically, the number one analytic tool by far with a home on hundreds of millions of personal desktops, Microsoft has invested significantly in ensuring its continued viability as we move past its second decade of existence, and its adoption shows absolutely no sign of abating any time soon."

This award, however, does not come without a little controversy. Research points to the prominence of spreadsheet errors: One project found that 80 percent of spreadsheets contain significant errors. And executives who rely on the "truthiness" of unchecked spreadsheets alone may find themselves in trouble. (See Eight of the Worst Spreadsheet Blunders to read about the business fallout from erroneous spreadsheets.)

What's important to remember is that, like Microsoft PowerPoint, it's not the spreadsheet software that's defective; it's those imperfect human beings who are using the applications: inputting data, copying and pasting numbers from row to row and column to column, and writing inaccurate formulae. (Editor's Note: Per new FTC rules, I must disclose that Microsoft did not pay me for writing that sentence.)

Even with its notable warts, the multi-cell, coolly calculating Excel is worthy of this ESUie award. As a testament to its staying power, blogger Bardoliwalla adds: "While many vendors have tried in vain to displace Excel from the desktops of the business user for more than two decades, none will be any closer to succeeding any time soon."

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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